The idea of self-care is not a new thing but you’d be forgiven for thinking it was. Possibly even coined by social media hashtags following a curated photogaph of a perfectly arranged bath caddy. Lets not forget the fabulous array of different beauty products and, of course the obligatory scented candle. It’s as if self care must include an overpriced beauty regimen and the most up to date style of bath bomb and can only be done on a Sunday because #selfcarewednesday just doesn’t really work.
Of course, indulging in a little luxury once in a while can do wonders. Who doesn’t love a luxurious bubble bath or an indulgent face mask. But, we all know that self care is so much more than this. At it’s essence, self care is any activity we do deliberately for the overall benefit of our own mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. It’s something that we plan for and, most importantly, something we enjoy. If you don’t enjoy it, it’s not really self-care after all.
Embracing a slower pace
Since we’ve been in lock down, my attitude to self care has changed quite a bit. I’ve always tried to set space for myself; cultivate time to do enjoyable things, plan in time for exercise. But, I was missing the intention behind it all. When I was first told I would have to work from home from the foreseeable, I was secretly really excited. I had always wanted to work from home more often. It would give me the time to do things around the house, exercise when I wanted and do more of what I wanted to do. Needless to say, the reality didn’t live up to the vision I had, especially when the gyms closed. After the first three weeks, I started to feel like I couldn’t focus on work properly. I felt I wasn’t being productive.
The feelings crept up on me. I am used to being alone, but now I was alone all the time! As much as I stuck to my routines of exercise, working (including overtime) and speaking with my loved ones, I struggled massively with the change. I was fine for the first 3 weeks or so, then suddenly I wasn’t. I realised that I was working too much and not really taking time out for myself. Each day was going by on a loop. Even though I planned to do so many things, I wasn’t doing any of them because I was just recycling each day over and over. Rinse and repeat. I’d envisioned a slower way of living but I’d gone into autopilot.
So I made a few changes to my daily routine to bring a little intention back into my life. Nothing huge, just a few tweaks that allowed me to eliminate things that weren’t serving me and plan in activities that I really enjoyed and that made me feel good. Also, really working toward that slower pace of living that I craved in a way that made sense to me – with intention and with a view towards self care. Instead of checking my phone as soon as I wake up, I make a small breakfast and read my book. I started a daily yoga routine and journalling habit to track my progress.
Once yoga is done, I have a little time to clean up the breakfast things and then read a little more or practice a little Niksen. Niksen is the Dutch concept of literally doing nothing. It’s a relaxation technique that encourages you to sit or lie down and literally do nothing with any purpose. You can watch the world go by or lay and listen to music. If you can do it for just a few seconds or minutes, it can help to quieten your mind and bring you back to the present moment. I have found it can help me focus at the start of my working day, resetting my brain and moving towards a productive few hours.
I try to incorporate a little bit of planning and intention into all aspects of my day. For example, I have broken my working time into 3 slots of 2-3 hours. Also, I always finish working at 5 to move onto my afternoon time. Then I will go for a walk, cook dinner from scratch, maybe watch a little TV and get to bed by 10pm. Obviously my plan isn’t rigid or limited – I might not alway feel like cooking or I may work on the blog. The point is that I don’t feel like I am wasting the day but using the time I have to better myself a little.
Exercise – my sanctuary
Exercise is hugely important to me. I love weight training and the gym is one of my favourite places. Not being able to go has been the hardest part of this whole time for me, next to not being able to see my family. It sounds silly but the gym is one of my favourite places to be. It’s where I challenge myself. Having no where to go to workout was tough. But, it had to be done for the health of all and we can adapt to changes like these. I’ve found a lot of alternatives to keep me in shape at home and been able to stick to them too. It’s amazing what you can do with a set of resistance bands!
As the gym is closed, my usual morning training sessions are not happening right now. Yoga has been a great way to keep a daily habit going whilst also being something I can progress in. I still weight train a little with the equipment I have (it’s amazing what you can do with a set of resistancce bands!). Mostly I workout at lunchtime for an hour or so, 4-5 days a week. Once the gym is open again, I will go back to my morning sessions 4 days a week and keep the yoga going too.
What about you?
We all know the importance of self care so what’s the best way to bring more of it into your life? I think self care means something different to everyone but there are a few basics we should all think about when planning our routines:
- Plan for a nutritious diet, eliminating processed foods is a great way to help you feel better. Cooking for yourself is always an idea too, if you enjoy it of course.
- Get plenty of sleep. 7-9 hours is best and try to go to bed at the same time each night.
- Exercise. Yes, this is tricky since not all of us really admit to enjoying exercise. But, I honestly believe that we all can find an activity we love that counts as exercise. It’s great for physical and mental health.
- Create a “no” list. It’s ok to say no to something you don’t want to do. You don’t even have to have a reason. Stop checking your phone first thing in the morning or last thing at night, or both.
- Plan in some form of relaxation everyday. Maybe meditation or reading. Anything that relaxes you. I incorporate a little meditation at the end of my yoga session each day.
- Nuture your relationships. Keep those important relationships close and spend time with those you love.
- Plan for one pleasureable activity each day. Anything you love to do, do it!
- Make sure you keep up with your medical appointments. Check-ups, dentist appointments, therapy, any appointments to do with your health are important.